*Alison is a strong and courageous follower of Jesus. Her depth and thoughtfulness about our faith is reflected in this post. I hope you will receive it as I have. P. S. I’m thankful for the non-anxious presence of WCC these days who, like us, are learning that the common life and common good in Christ are the point of our gatherings. I look forward to regathering but I’m grateful we aren’t collectively anxious about it. ~ Fred
A few days ago I spent the afternoon on a beach reflecting with dear friends about our differing views of God. From childhood to adulthood, each of us had specific reasons for our feelings and opinions yet, by way of Scripture, had come full circle to see God through a more accurate lens. In essence, while our children wrestled in the water, we had “church.” We had “church” in its fullest sense: a community of believers gathered to share in life together.
That afternoon on the beach garnered deeper reflection as I contemplated the Christian communities’ obsession with returning to a corporate gathering, or in some cases during this pandemic, not refraining from the gathering at all. Has Sunday morning become so embedded as the crux of our faith that we can’t possibly see an evening spent on a dock discussing ways to minister to others as being “the church?” Has Sunday morning become so embedded as the crux of our faith that we can’t possibly see an evening around a socially-distanced campfire with dear friends from our church family as being “the church?” Has Sunday morning become so embedded as the crux of our faith that we can’t possibly see birthday parades for friends’ children from our church family as being “the church?” Has Sunday morning become so embedded as the crux of our faith that we can’t possibly see an afternoon of slip-n-slides and water balloons with children from our church family as being “the church?” Has Sunday morning become so embedded as the crux of our faith that we can’t possibly see how to be the church Monday-Saturday?
Yes, the corporate gathering is necessary. It was created to edify (enlighten and inform) and to share in the common good. However, if you use only the corporate gathering to “feed your soul,” then you have whole-heartedly missed the beauty of the corporate gathering. Sharing in the common good was the primary source of love and sacrifice in the days following Jesus’ ascension. And today, sharing in the common good provides meals for those who are sick, provides child care for a weary single mom, offers financial help to those in need, transports patients to chemo treatments, and sits with friends in the hospital. Sharing in the common good moves one another out of and into new homes, paints their kitchen cabinets, fixes their cars and toilets, accommodates food allergies, and answers midnight phone calls. Sharing in the common good prays for difficulties with misguided children, offers patience with one another’s quirks, and challenges one another to think deeper and be more culturally aware. Creating a life that shares in the common good is the point of our ecclesiastical commitments. By sharing in the common good, you are demonstrating Christ’s love to His creation. It’s the sharing in the common good that makes Sunday morning worth attending.
For those who are beating down their church building doors and providing their own misinformed reasons for why their local church continues to meet online, what keeps you from “having church” on a beach or sitting on a friend’s back porch? Why does the local church have to reopen its doors against the advice of the W.H.O. for you to feel ministered to? What have you done to prevent being able to share in the common good with other members of your church family? At some point, each member of a local congregation has to take responsibility for its own lack…lack of connection, lack of community, lack of faith, lack of understanding. I have witnessed people leave their local church in search of a “better” Sunday gathering. And as expected, when life caved in, they were confronted with the notion that neither their hipster worship music nor their stance on women’s roles brought them dinner. Every example listed in this writing, I have either offered or received. It wasn’t the Sunday gathering that walked me through my mother’s death nor did it share in the pain of infertility and failed adoptions. The Sunday gathering didn’t care for my child while I had minor surgery nor did it sit with my husband during a hospital stay while I was out of town. The Sunday gathering didn’t offer support when I went back to work full-time, and it certainly didn’t say, “We stand with you” when our family took a stance against racial inequity and police brutality. It was the relationships that were cultivated outside of the Sunday gathering that supported us in that way, and those relationships, not the Sunday gathering, will continue to do so.
Give your local church the benefit of the doubt. Is it possible that there’s a team of people offering instruction and consultation with the lead pastor? Is it possible that a survey was sent to every member of your local church, and now the staff is considering the needs of the majority rather than your opinion? Ask yourself why the Sunday gathering has become so important to your spiritual health that you can’t possibly function without it for a few more months. Reach out to others. Make a play date. Start a book club or a Marco Polo group. Ask a friend to pray for you or your family while being honest about what those prayers might be. Sit at the river with a friend. Walk a trail. Or host happy hour on your back porch. But for the love, do not lay your lack of “church” or community at the feet of the Sunday gathering. She was never designed to complete your life. Only to enhance it.